Ján Bitala was born in 1925. In 1944 he completed his apprenticeship as a tile stove mason in Žilina at the German stove mason Vincent Fridrich. From that year on, he began to practice this handicraft. During the years of socialism there was an enterprise called Local communal services (Oblastné komunálne služby), which had in our area its seat in Bytča. At this time, up to the fall of communism, i.e. up to year 1989 Mr. Ján senior was charged with “tile stove masonry“. Tile stove masonry was 1 km away from the place of his residence, where once upon a time there was a wooden hall for the sheep, and the place was also called sheep-cote. Even during the era of „tile stove masonry“, this workshop was still nicknamed „sheep-cote“, (see photo underneath).
At those times he built mostly kitcheners and standing room tile stoves in the surroundings of Bytča, such as Hvozdica, Štiavnik, Papradno, Stupné, Jasenica, Maríková, Vysoká/Kysucou, on the territory of Moravia and naturally also at other surrounding villages approximately 50 km from the place of residence. By the works the master tile stove mason schooled in his sons Ján and Jozef. These had to work with him as children on compulsory basis during each summer holidays☺, whereby after having spent this time they learned the tile stove masonry handicraft.
Senior´s wife Anna Bitalová, was born in the year 1926. During the time of socialism she was a housewife, but she also helped her husband, she used to go with him directly to the building sites, or she helped him at home by hacking off and grinding the tiles, as a preliminary preparation after which building site activity was supposed to take place. Master tile stove mason was given various honors for running of this handicraft, which was declining in Slovakia at that time, but he on the contrary was developing it, which is witnessed by many of his executions still in use today. He was himself also able to invent a quite prefect system of so-called horse-shoe, so called for summer and winter heating, upon which the radiators are connected, and this system is in use in the company up to now. The father alone as well as with his sons used to travel to Letovice in order to supply himself with tiles, where the factory has more than 100-years old tradition, and the sons continue the cooperation and purchase tiles from above mentioned firm up till now. The master used to produce a kitchener, stove or a fire place (not so many fireplaces) in around 4 days. During the works he never drank alcohol on principle. Then, always after having finished his work, after completion of the building, he took some drink, and he usually always got drunk☺. Other tile stove masons in Slovakia were also like this, people called them „gentlemen“ or „masters“, they were always esteemed, because they had to both learn and perform the handicraft thoroughly if they wanted to be successful or respected.
When he saw, he can not cooperate with the tile stove mason, he ended the employment relation and he had to start searching again. And training? They trained a lot of people, many of whom wanted to imitate the „tile oven masons“, and there was a problem again. Jozef also asked The Ministry of Education for permission (so called „credit“) to train others in this handicraft. The credit was given to him and so he was the first and only enterpreneur who started to train this beautiful tile stove masonry handicraft. This credit was given to him with total of 1.318 teaching hours. They continue in the firm with this training up till now, and new applicants show ever growing interest in this old classical handicraft. Jozef later within the years 1998 – 1999 also successfully applied for permission to run re-training course for this tile stove masonry handicraft.
Only at the beginning of 2000 managed Jozef to train employees for his firm, with whom he finally settled down. In other words, it lasted almost a decade before he started up the firm in the way his father formerly did.
Mother died in the year 2000 and father in the year 2002. Up to this year the father actively helped his son Jozef, and namely with portable kitcheners and stoves, because father did not want to go to build to the customer´s premises outside his home anymore, because of his elderly age. After the death of the father Ján, Jozef was joined by his brother Ján, who helps him up till now.
The wife Hana Bitalová was born 1971. From 2002 on, she also joined her husband Jozef, and Ján. She is also an associate in the firm Kachliarstvo a krby.
In the year 2004 founded Jozef himself with the help of other tile oven masons from Slovakia the Guild of tile stove and fireplace masons of the Slovak Republic. (www.cechkachliarov.szm.sk), where at the guild´s constitutive general assembly, he was elected chairman of the guild. In the guild they solve the problems of the tile stove masons and they help them. The said guild was given credit for training of the handicraft of tile stove masonry. Given the fact that educational curriculum „tile stove mason“ was created in Slovakia, school system has some problems with it, as there are no qualified teachers for the praxis of this handicraft. That is why we started to set up also cooperation with the schools, where we supply this praxis to them. Even though the schooling system is short of financial means these days, we decided to help, we donated the praxis to some of them free of charge, and above that we even provided accommodation free of charge to some of the trainees, so that they can successfully complete their training course in the curriculum „tile stove mason“.
In the year 2006 standards started to be created for tile stove masons in Czech Republic. We awaited the same and so Jozef was nominated as a member of the Technical Commission at the Slovak Institute for Technical Standardization (SÚTN) in Bratislava in the year 2007. Jozef was awarded a Letter of Honor in 2007 for his deserts in the revival of educational curriculum „tile stove mason“, which was given to him at the constitutive congress by Mr. Šalvata and Mr. Hlobil.
Jozef encountered also problems concerning chimneys, and so he passed retraining course to the handicraft „chimney-sweeper“, as this handicraft is closely tied to the handicraft „tile stove mason“. So at the end we want to summarize, that at this time, there are 3 Bitalas in the firm, where we have our team of workers. Father with mother gave us solid foundations towards this beautiful handicraft, and we believe that we would convey this further away, even though we know, that by training others we increase competition against ourselves, but we do not mind this for the time being.
Praxis in the said handicraft is a great positive contribution and we say that a tile stove mason learns during his whole life, and in the course of his life he encounters various building sites, where he is always supposed to find his own way to cope positively with problems. And even if something happens at some time, we always recommend, that a two side communication, tile stove mason – customer takes place.